China cuts gay scenes, references from Bohemian Rhapsody

China has scrubbed at least ten scenes with gay references from the Oscar-winning biopic Bohemian Rhapsody about British rock musician Freddie Mercury.

The film about the lead singer of British rock band Queen has earned more than 50 million yuan (NZ$11 million) in box office revenue since opening in Chinese art house cinemas on Friday, according to Alibaba Pictures.

At least three minutes of the film, including a kiss with a male guest, are missing.

"In effect, it feels like the whole movie has been cut - though in reality, it's only a three-minute cut," said one commentator on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

"The film itself is not trying to highlight anything, but when we deliberately make deletions, it makes these things sensitive," said another.

The China Film Administration did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.

The film traces Mercury's life from Queen's formation in 1970 to one of its highlight performances in London in 1985.

Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but activists say the conservative attitudes of some have prompted occasional government clamp-downs.

Since 2012, China has stepped up a crackdown on content it deems to violate so-called "socialist core value" under President Xi Jinping.

But censors can be unpredictable in their attitudes to violence, pornography, and politically sensitive topics.

For example, gay references were left intact in another movie, Green Book, when it was released in China this month.

Beijing-based film analyst Shi Yedong said it was unusual that Bohemian Rhapsody had even passed China's censors in the current circumstances.

"The censorship is getting more and more intense on film and television," he said.

Reuters